By Kirsten West, Crosswalk.com
The Math Brain: How High Will You Go?
Math is everywhere. Elementary mathematics are those fundamentals we teach our children at home without even realizing it. How many peanuts will be left if we begin with four and Daddy eats two of them? Will there be enough for you to have more than one peanut? Beginning to teach "higher math" can start as early as the fourth grade!
Mathematics is nothing more than a set of tools that allows us to understand our world and predict what will happen in the future. The time to foster a math brain in your child is the moment you face a real-world problem together. You already do it with your little ones. You count ducks on the pages of a picture book together. In the kitchen, you count the number of cups of flour as you bake together. At Christmastime, you count down the days of Advent together. Those "together" elementary math activities and lessons are the first steps to the math brain.
The next step beyond elementary math is algebra, followed by geometry, trigonometry, and even calculus. What if you hate algebra? What if geometry, with its seemingly unprovable proofs, marked the end of any positive relationship you had with math? How will your children ever learn what you yourself do not remember or never knew? There are many ways around that problem. There is a myriad of help available for those who fear their abilities, such as online math curriculum, video math teachers, or hiring a math tutor to work with your children. You are still directing their education whether you personally do the teaching of math or not.
The one truth that needs to be faced is that you are not all-knowing or perfect. We all understand this truth on Sundays, so why do so many parents feel they must know and understand math completely to teach it to their children? You will learn as they learn. So many homeschool parents have experienced just that.
Dr. George Pólya, considered the father of modern problem solving,1 developed something that he called the "Ten Commandments for Teachers" based on a lifelong study of mathematics and teaching. Pólya's list focuses on encouraging students to explore instead of only being told how math works. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to learn alongside your child, especially if there is a part of math you do not know well. As you work together, you are teaching how and why math works. By your side, they get a ground-level view of math. Even those kids who don't particularly like math are encouraged as you come alongside them in practical ways whenever possible.
Math is not about memorizing formulas and theorems. Math is using the tools God gave each of us and working through real-world problems. Too much of math education today is dry and abstracted from its original intent. Math is what we need to build cars, cook our food, and make our music. Math is everywhere.
Many people think that mathematics is an agnostic discipline—that it does not have a relationship to faith or Christianity. However, every part of learning holds an intimate relationship with your worldview. I am not alone in that thinking. In fact, the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences (ACMS)2 is "dedicated to integrating mathematics with faith and to promoting quality teaching." Admittedly, some significant scientific advancements have been made by non-Christians, but the logic underlying mathematical theories comes from God. Logic is the tool you use to tell if something is true or not. Your children use logic to realize that stealing is wrong, and therefore the person who takes pencils home from the pew or changes the results of their research is breaking a commandment.
Without logic, you cannot take laws and apply them, whether they be from the Lord or simply extensions of mathematical theories. Many scientists and mathematicians who begin their studies as atheists find the application of logic to their field of study often naturally leads them to Christianity, or at the very least, Intelligent Design.
Many of Jonathan Sarfati’s books combine mathematical qualities to God’s perfect design, notably, his book By Design: Evidence for Nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible as reviewed by The Old Schoolhouse®.
Creation Ministries International also promotes that mathematics directly reflects who God is:
"Only people with a Christian worldview can understand that mathematics reflects the logical, ordered, and good mind of God. As one of His forms of thought, God thinks mathematically. So, the existence of mathematics declares to mankind that God is behind the order in the universe. We can count and perform mathematical calculations because we are image-bearers of God, (Genesis 1:26–27) and can think God’s thoughts after Him.3"
Developing a math brain begins and ends with faith, logic, and exploration together with your child. It can be fun and challenging and it is perhaps the most important gift you can give as you homeschool. How high will they go?
1. Gary L. Musser and William F. Burger, Mathematics for Elementary Teachers: A Contemporary Approach, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1988), 3.
3. Mathematics From the mind of God, Published: 18 May 2021 by James R. Hughes
Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
Kirsten West, PhD, and her husband homeschooled their twins using a Classical/Charlotte Mason literature-based approach. She works at The Old Schoolhouse® as the Director of Marketing. She has a doctorate in biophysics, master's and bachelor's degrees in physics, a minor in mathematics, and spent over thirty-five years teaching and tutoring children and young adults. She is the author of the Doodles Do Algebra math curriculum, sold online at TeachMeBetter.org. She blogs as DoodleMom on the HomeschoolBlogger.com platform.